Interview with Kelly Shaefer and Steve Flynn of Atheist
Let me start off oh so clichť by stating that Atheist, as most of us know by now that were around back in the day when Piece of Time was released (1990), were a band that never got the attention they deserved (end of clichť). But back in the early 90ís, I too was closed minded to certain bands (Cynic for example) - but Atheist was not one to be ignored in my mind.
Piece of Time was an album that definitely may have been way too technical and not straight death metal forward enough for all the Cannibal Corpse and Broken Hope (respectively to both) style hordes and fans alike that was taking over the metal scene in the early 90ís. Well, at least here in America. Meanwhile, over on the European side of things Power Metal and Black Metal were dominating. Unfortunately, but not really, Atheist played neither, so they got pushed to the side along with other bands that had, in my opinion if I had to classify, "other death metal style" of vocals, and just a different overall brutal musical approach that some folks just didnít seem to understand. Well, as mentioned before, here in the USA anyway. I heard Europe accepted Atheist pretty well. So one can better understand what other bands I am referring to that I would put into this style of approach (not fitting the "norm"), I will name the other 4 that come to my mind at this moment that I feel are and were underrated in their time: Sadus (and still is), Morbid Saint, Coroner, and Cerebral Fix.
But going back to Atheist now, how can one deny the brutality and the overall catchiness of each song from that album? Songs like Piece of Time, Unholy War, or I Deny, which you can download from their web-site. Even if one does not like that album, for whatever misconceived thoughts that may linger within their heads that they may think are real, but are not, the truth is, people were just not ready for a band like Atheist. The biggest thing that made them stand out way beyond ALL other brutal bands that came out in that wave, was the fact they combined twin, brutal and technical guitar work, and not to mention had some of the tightest and best technical fill-in happy drum work Iíve ever heard from almost any metal album, or band for that matter. Steve Flynn is definitely in my top 5 for best technical metal drummers, and for having some of the best drum work on both albums he played on, Piece of Time and Unquestionable Presence.
Unquestionable Presence was an album that was a definite progression from the debut, to say the least. This album was once again brutal and was once again way ahead of its time - even further in time than before. Although a lot of music critics were praising this release, once again the "Cannibal Corpse hordes" were ignoring it. If by now one did not understand the technical metal Atheist was known for, then these same young folks that didnít understand them on Piece of Time were surely going to ignore this band once again, and unfortunately most did. But even before this album was released, it had seemed that some sort of "curse" had been put on this band. Their original bass player, Roger Patterson, died in an accident while Atheist was on the road heading back home from their last gig in California. Although Roger was replaced by Tony Choy (respectively), Steve decided to call it a day and went back to college. Kelly soon after went on to join Neurotica, putting Atheist to rest, sort of.
Before Kelly could devote his time to Neurotica, Atheist still had a record contract to fulfill and had to release one more album. Kelly hooked up with some session members and recorded what was to be Atheistís official last album that was released in 1993, "Elements." They had 40 days to write and record this album, which was surely a task considering all of the circumstances Iím sure Kelly had to endure on a psychological level, but that didnít stop him. This was by far Kellyís most experimental release, incorporating, as it is said (and taken) from their web-site, "...fused disparate sounds such as delicate jazz, deep funk grooves, Latin rhythms, flamenco guitar styling, and samba interludes with blistering metal chops to create music that confused as many as it pleased."
Due to all of the current circumstances, I was expecting a brutal and angry album, but I was wrong - dead wrong. Being the creative and musical genius that Kelly is, he took the next logical creative and musical step. He combined his other musical interests outside of metal into Atheist, but this is where I must confess that although Piece of Time was easily accepted by my ears, and I fully understood what they were trying to do, it did take me a few weeks and listens to get used to (and accept) Unquestionable Presence. After a few weeks of listens and understanding the whole picture of things, I grew to love that album (and still do!). When "Elements" came out shortly thereafter, I listened, and listened, and listened, but in the end I just couldnít get into that album. As a musician and as an artist, I can respect Kelly for what he did and for the ideas that were incorporated into that album, but it just wasnít metal enough for my taste. Even though I was a loyal fan, I was one of the displeased. Yeah, it had Atheist elements (pun not intended) and it was definitely Kellyís work, but it just wasnít for me. Although I had purchased this album with all intentions on keeping it, I ended up selling it to my friend. I listened to this album time after time, and even listened to it again a few months ago (borrowed it from a friend right before Powerfest) but I still could not get into this great (yet not metal enough for my taste) piece of work. So with the release of "Elements", 1993 was the year Kelly finally put Atheist to rest - or so he thought.
(Fast forwarding 14 years)
As I found out while conducting this interview, after Steveís wife saw an old Atheist album go for hundreds of dollars on eBay some time in 2004, Kelly and Steve wanted to see if they could get someone to release their back catalogue so nobody would have to spend that much money for an Atheist album. In comes Relapse Records. They were chosen to pick up the Atheist back catalogue and re-released all of their work with new pictures, bonus tracks, and liner notes. Soon after, Kelly and company were being offered to play certain festivals, and as they say, the rest is history! Another reunion was about to take place, and I thank God (that sounds kind of funny considering the name of the band) I was given the opportunity to see this band perform before they called it quits. They played their last central US performance at this yearís Powerfest in Chicago, and I wasnít about to miss that! Although not all of the "original" members were performing (R.I.P. Roger), Kelly and Steve, in my humble opinion were and are the sound of Atheist, with no disrespect to anyone else that was ever involved with Atheist.
So there you have it, a little Atheist history lesson and some personal history for the kidís ala Michael Coles that may be reading this. I want to thank Chicagoís Powerfest for bringing Atheist out. I was thinking about driving to the east coast so I could see them before they broke up (again), but then my friends Mark and Mike told me about this show. If anyone missed out on this 2 day event, I feel for you. You missed a really, really powerful line-up this year, and not to mention the fun party on the 3rd floor of the Super 8 motel afterwards. I think only one room was non-metal, and when that guy stuck his head out and saw all of us in the hall way, I knew he knew he was in for a long, long night. Sorry dude!! Metal heads EVERYWHERE!!!! Fond memories, good times indeed.
Interview conducted by Michael Coles and Suicidal Brutalizer on 4/21/07
(Con Daniel hechando el ojo!!)
Pictures by Michael Coles
Interview with Steve Flynn and Kelly Shaefer at The Pearl Room.
And then just with Kelly at The Super 8
The Outcast: So why did you guys call it quits with Atheist?
Kelly: At the time nobody really understood our music, so it was really tough for us man. We just got frustrated and called it a day. We did some other stuff, and in 2003 - 2004 we started noticing a lot of technical bands popping up. The internet turned our music on to a lot of kids.
Steve: There was a lot of demand for our stuff, people paying up to a $100.00 for a CD on eBay. My wife would send me an e-mail from eBay and sheíd say; "Look honey, someone bid $75.00 for your CD." I was just; "What!?"
Kelly: We were both like letís see if we can find a label that will put them back out again. So we re-mastered them, did new liner notes, included all the demo stuff that Roger did before he died on "Unquestionable..." and just put everything together that we could that we thought people were into the band would appreciate. And us, as fans of metal, weíre just basically guys that are fans of metal that play in a metal band, you know? So we understand that for someone to have to pay $50-$100 for our CD is bullshit. Relapse did a great job at putting it back out, and then the result of that we were offered a lot of really great shows. We were like; "Wow."
Steve: Once we quoted the idea of a reunion, Kelly called me. I had been playing in a band called Naustic (Spelling?? - Mike) that I formed in 2005. I said; "Well yeah, Iím actually playing again seriously with a band." Itís like technical metal. Iím back in shape, you know, because I didnít play for 12 - 13 years. I had my drums in the basement but I literally did not play. He (pointing at Kelly) bugged the hell out of me for years; "How could you not play drums!?" And you know what I would tell him? Not a fucking day would go by that I didnít miss the fuck out of them, but there was just something about the timing that wasnít right. It wasnít the right time. And then it hit me like a thunderbolt, it was January, early January of 2005; "Itís time to play." I mean literally. So I met the guys in Naustic, who are the two guitar players who you saw on stage tonight. I started playing, this was before the re-issues so Kelly said; "Hey, somebody floated the idea of doing some live shows and I said: "Yeah, fuck, that would be killer!"
Kelly: I went and helped him with their demo when they did the first Naustic demo. I saw them play and he (Stevee) was better than he was before, so I knew we could do it. And then we had Rand (Burkey), our original guitar player was supposed to do it and we started booking some shows, but then he got into some trouble so I was like; "God, what are we going to do?" Who are we going to find that can play that shit? So his (Naustic) guitar players stepped up. We already had Sonny (I think he said Sonny - Mike) that was going to replace me because my thumb is just fucked up from a lot of years of playing that kind of music. I used to play and sing, but I was just like; "Iím just going to sing." So everything just worked out.
Steve: It was all very meant to be. It was funny because my mind set was still back in 1991 where we couldnít pay people to come and see us play. Then Kelly told me, Iím driving to practice one night for Naustic, Iím on my way, were talking, he goes; "Hey dude, guess what? The Wacken Festival made us an offer and they want us to play there." I was like; "Get the fuck out of here! Weíre not going to play Wacken." Thatís one of the biggest festivals over there, you know? Heís like; "Dude, Iím serious. They are going to pay us money to go and play Wacken." I said; "No fucking way!!" Once word got out about that there were a lot of offers. The demand was..... It was incredible.
Kelly: We saw so many young kids there (Wacken), there werenít a bunch of old fuckers.
Steve: They were like babies when we were writing these songs.
Kelly: Even with the American shows weíre finding that a lot of these kids are 20-21 years old, and itís like; "Damn!" The music back then was just way confusing for people, and through the course of the decade, people just started......... Metal always needed that (Atheists music), we used to say that back in the day, metalists really have got to learn how to play. All these guys back then were real basic, old school death metal. There just wasnít a lot of musicianship at all and thatís why they were very confused by us, we were changing 14 times in a fucking song and "Boop (made some sort of sound)." They (fans) tried to have a pit and they couldnít. Usually when people donít understand something then they donít like it. The only people that really liked us back then were writers, writers for magazines and that was it, everybody else was like........ (We liked you back in the day!!!! Matt, Terry, and I!! - Mike)
Steve: Weíd play live shows and people were like; "Um...... (And makes a strange noise) Okay, what the fuck was that supposed to be?" Itís like Cannibal Corpse; da-da-da-da-da (Making a drum beat sound and making a statement about the simple drum beats).
The Outcast: I used to live in Texas and I wanted to catch you guys. You guys played with Candlemass and......
Kelly: The San Antonio show was the one.... I mean the most where people were just like; "Fuck you suck!" All people wanted to see was (pa-pa-pa-pa-pa-pa) blast beats, you know?
The Outcast: Why couldnít people appreciate them both back then, you know?
Steve: I think people appreciate it more now. I always hesitate to say its (Atheist) ahead of its time because it sounds like Iím complimenting my self, but it was. 14 years later when I started playing again, I remarked to Sonny in Naustic; "Man, there are so many really technical bands now." There are so many drummers now that play like.... So crazy!
Kelly: We didnít even really fathom that maybe theyíd heard us at some point, we just assumed that, well, everybody finally got it. Then we met Dillinger Escape Plan and they were like; "When we were 13 we were living on Atheist!" We were like; "No way!" All the bands that we have seen are playing technical. Then when we met them all they were like; "Ahhh!! (Making some sort of noise)." And we were like; "Ahhh! (Makes same noise)." You know Destruction, we were always big fans of those guys and we played with them in Norway. We saw them in Italy and we were like; "Oh my God, itís Destruction!" And they were like; "Oh my God, itís Atheist! (Laughter from all of us)"
Steve: "How can you be a fan of us!?" (Laughing and asking Destruction.)
Kelly: How could it be possible, you know? I remember being 19 years old listening to "Release from Agony", you know? So itís all been fucking amazing.
The Outcast: We (Suicidal Brutalizer) were talking about an interview with Atheist... How many years ago was that?
Suicidal Brutalizer: I read it like... it was a few years ago. I think it was with you (pointing at Kelly) and you were talking about making a new album.
Kelly: With Atheist?
Suicidal Brutalizer: Yeah.
Kelly: You know, I probably did say that, I thought it was possible. But you know, when we got together after this and started seeing some of the other bands from our era making records that we were like; "Hmmmm... (Questioning the records with disappointment)." And we just thought; "Nah." We donít want to mess up this fucking legacy thatís there, you know, and then put out a shit record. We got offers from every single label to do another record; to do multiple records. But we decided to...... These records to us still stand the test of time. Theyíre current; do you know what I mean? If you put them in against todayís metal, aside from the production difference, todayís technology makes for louder recordings. We re-mastered all of the records and they sounded pretty good.
Steve: The greatest compliment to me, to pay to any artist no matter what the medium, that if your stuff is still relevant 15 years after you did it........ I said to Kelly when Relapse was going to re-issue everything, I was really worried that it would come out and people would think that it sounded dated. There are so many bands that are so technical and so good.......... (Getting interrupted from behind).
Kelly: We thought we were going to sound like out of touch, do you know what I mean? That people were going to say; "Oh, that sounds like 80ís shit." You know? As much as we love our music, we just thought that against all of the new bands that maybe the kids would not dig it, but it was the complete opposite.
The Outcast: So this entire time you never really expected all of this to happen?
Kelly: Our shit was collecting dust. We had moved on. I was touring with Neurotica. I was making rock records working with Brian from AC/DC, we did some stuff together. I almost got into Velvet Revolver.
Suicidal Brutalizer / The Outcast: Really (Surprised to hear that.)!?
Kelly: I was in the final 4. If you look in the Rolling Stone, the issue they did when Velvet Revolver first came out, youíll see a picture of me. I went out to L.A. with Slash, a death metal dude, you know what I mean? How the fuck did I get here? I was on-line, Neurotica had just broken up, had a 9 year relationship that went "south", and all of this in one summer, and I was like; "Fuck!" Then I saw on-line that Slash was looking for a real rock singer. There are no real rock singers, that was the thing on Blabber Mouth, and I was like; "What the fuck." So I called this girl whoís a publicist at Koch Records, which is Neuroticaís label. She used to be his publicist. Well maybe I can get my CD out there and maybe they will listen to it. So she (Lulu) called Slash and told him that she wanted him to hear this singer. I didnít think anything about it, my manager didnít think anything about it. Then one day Slash calls me; "He dude, this is Slash." Iím in a fucking hotel room, broken up with my chick, Iím all fuckiní bummed out, just came off the tour, Iím disoriented from being on the road for 2 Ĺ months and Slash calls my cell phone. Lulu gave him my number, he loved the record and had already gone through over 600 auditions by this point, you know? He said; "Weíre going to send you 3 songs, go in the studio and do your thing, write some lyrics, etc. and send it back." I sent it back and I got a conference call to come down there. So off I go to L.A., I get picked up at the airport and within 20 minutes Iím at the rehearsal studio standing in the room with Guns n Roses man! "Wow!" I was ready to go and we fucking jammed. I could tell they wanted to talk so I told them I was going to go and smoke a cigarette. I walked outside and Duff had told me that he had a friend come audition from Seattle and they got through Ĺ a song and Slash was like; "Iím sorry." And that was it, he was done. We got through all of our songs standing outside wondering that itís probably over but I didnít give a shit, I just got to jam with GNR!! Duff comes out and then asked if I wanted to stay over the weekend and; "Weíll give you two more songs." I was like; "YEAH!" and; Weíll jam again on Monday." So then Slash opened up and we went and had burritos together and sat around and talked about Axl......
Suicidal Brutalizer: Is he cool (Slash)?
Kelly: Super fucking cool.
Suicidal Brutalizer: Did they know Atheist?
Kelly: No man (Making a hush, hush, noise). You start rolling that out and theyíd be like; "Um, no, huh, huh. We donít need a death metal guy." You know, I had already done my Neurotica thing and built a little identity on that. I know you guys probably arenít into the rock scene, but in the rock scene we got some good reviews, it was going good, it was selling well, had a song on the radio called "Easy Speak" (I think thats what he said. - Mike).
Suicidal Brutalizer: I have never heard it actually.
Kelly: Completely different vocals. There arenít very many death metal guys that dare to step on to the other side. I took a lot of shit for it in the beginning.
The Outcast: People have to understand that artists are artists and that we do things for ourselves.
Kelly: Yeah, you have to let them do it. Itís not like I made some pussy ass music, it rocks, and itís just that I sing. Itís straight up singing with harmony vocals. Brian from AC/DC came into a club when we were playing and he bought us a round of beer and after a few beers he agreed to produce our first record. Heís the one that got us a deal. The guy who did Metallica, Mike Frasier, he mixed it in British Columbia in Brian Adams studio, and "boom", were off and running. Then we signed with WWF, with Vince Mccmann and started a label. We were the first band, made a video, and did all the shit. Then they fucked it up because they didnít know how to be a record company, you know? We did the Ozz Fest tour, we had some good shows but they didnít have the people to work that record properly. They didnít have people calling radio, they just didnít know how to be a label. They called us and told us they were going to give us everything back and told us they were sorry, that they just didnít know how to do it. In the meantime we sold 20,000 records and we were on a roll. Then 2 of the guys fucking quit at the end of the tour; they were bummed. We had done this for 8 years and they thought it was over. Theyíre giving us our record back and not charging us for the tons of money they spent on us. All we have to do is go to another label and theyíll jump on the train and weíll keep rolling, you know? But they didnít see it that way and I wasnít able to recover with the new line-up quick enough, so it was over. If you donít stay on that train in rock n roll, that main stream rock and radio, youíre done. Your record is done and you have to go back and do it again, and we did.
Suicidal Brutalizer: You canít just keep shopping it around? I mean right now?
Kelly: Iím just now getting back into it man. I canít believe that 5 years have flown by already. But you know, I had a baby and I had to cool it for 2 years.
The Outcast: So are the Atheist re-issues selling pretty well for Relapse?
Kelly: Really well. Weíve already sold like 40, 000 records and that is pretty well for death metal. Weíll never know how many we sold in the past because we got fucked so bad by our label. We never even got a dime from our past at all. That was Active Records in Europe and Metal Blade in America. We never saw a dime for it. We probably sold 20, 000 records back in the day, but we have no way of knowing because we were never given a statement. This time around it has been really great. Relapse is really happy about it. We were happy about it. Itís the first time we ever made money from our music, you know? Itís never been about the money though, itís always been about this shit (live shows), looking out and seeing people who live for metal. Thatís the way we grew up man. We grew up listening to Slayer, Mercyful Fate,...... Mercyful Fate was a huge influence on me as far as song arrangements. I really wanted everything to be like "Satanís fall." There were all these different parts. It starts here and ends way over here, you know, in this weird journey. Their songs weíre a journey, great solos.......
The Outcast: I think "Elements" is a pretty interesting journey (laughing a bit due to how far out that record really was).
Kelly: That was a weird record because at the time I had to..... You know, all of my guys were gone, I started Neurotica, and I wanted to sing, I didnít want to scream any more. I wanted to write some songs that...... You see at the time I was thinking that we needed to write some songs that will be around 20 years from now, you know, not knowing that it had already been done (chuckles). So the Neurotica thing came out and I..... A lot of people gave me a lot of shit for it because it was not death metal. People were like; "Youíre a sell out!" this and that, so I said; "You know what, itís alright." I made some new friends.... Iím an artist. I want to do what I want to do. Iím proud of all the Neurotica stuff. These dayís people are finally coming around. Thereís not a whole lot of death metal guys that have gone from straight up fucking death metal........ (I interrupted him on the tape and I could not hear what he said at the end. Sorry. - Mike)
The Outcast: I think there is a lot more open mindedness these days for metal.
Kelly: Yeah, these days.
The Outcast: So I hear you are a family man now (Looking at Steve)?
Steve: Weíre all family men.
Kelly: I just had a baby girl 18 months ago. He (Steve) has 2 girls. Whatís really hard about this too is that for us to go to Europe we had to go 3 times in 8 weeks.
Steve: My wife gave birth on July 5th and we had to be in England on July 9th. It was a rough time.
Kelly: We couldnít do like a tour, tour.
Steve: I hate to do this but you got to role this up (Atheist back-drop). Ralph needs to take this back because he has our stuff over there.
The Outcast: You guys will be over there, right (Super 8)?
Kelly: Yeah, yeah.
The Outcast: Because I havenít even began asking any "real" questions yet.
Kelly: Oh okay................
(An hour goes by, White Castle is consumed, and then Kelly comes down to my room to finish up....................)
Suicidal Brutalizer: So you guys have more shows here in the states, or.....
Kelly: 2 more this weekend in Tampa and Miami.
The Outcast: Where is your hometown in Florida?
Kelly: Sarasota, south of Tampa.
The Outcast: So you live in Florida and everyone else lives in Atlanta?
Kelly: Tony Choy lives in Miami......
The Outcast: Did you say that you and Tony had some musical project going on?
Kelly: Well, weíd like to do, um.....Weíd like to get Sean R., and a bunch of our friends and put together..... I mean me and Tony would write the core of the songs, get them ready, and then pull in Gene Hoglan,......
Suicidal Brutalizer: A super group?
Kelly: Just a mix of straight up crazy shit. Just really push the boundaries of technicality. We really want to set the bar for the next ten years. We would like to do something like that, if we can get a bunch of us to do it, you know? If we can find a label that......
The Outcast: Iím sure someone would be more than willing.
Kelly: Roadrunner did something like that, but it wasnít a technical death metal super group kind of thing. Just pulling some of our friends that are really good players, you know? I want to do that and do the Neurotica thing again. I want to go to Europe with that next year.
The Outcast: Youíre just going to sing, youíre not going to play anything?
Kelly: Iím just going to sing with Neurotica. I mean I write 70% of the songs, but on stage I just like to run around and be an idiot (all of us laughing). Itís a lot more fun than being stuck at the mic. stand.
The Outcast: You do like it better? You donít miss playing the guitar live?
Kelly: I know I can play guitar, Iím cool with it, you know what I mean? Itís way more easy to just show up and get on the mic., than have to load the guitar, string it, tune it, Iíd rather write it and; "Here, play it." Just run around and get high. In my regular life we just had a baby and that is so dead fucking serious, you know, so when Iím here, you know......
Suicidal Brutalizer: Itís your first kid?
Kelly: Yeah, itís my first kid so itís a huge deal to me. Itís like the best record I ever made. So when Iím dad, Iím dad, but when Iím here, Iím ready to get high!!
Suicidal Brutalizer: What do you do for a living?
Kelly: I run a couple of head shops.
Suicidal Brutalizer: (Laughter coming from S.B. and I) Oh really?
Kelly: I mean back in the day...... Iíve had them for like 10 years. I needed a job, I was like; "Fuck, I gotta be able to work when we go on the road. Itís just not all that profitable (being on the road)." Back then especially. These days itís a lot easier to do, fly in, and fly home.
Suicidal Brutalizer: Is it pretty profitable as far as head shops go?
Kelly: Yeah, mine have done real well. I mean I have two of them. Theyíre really easy to run. Iíve gotten a lot of killer glass and itís in a town where a lot of tourists come. It keeps my dream alive. When I went on the road when Neurotica had to do the whole Ozz fest tour, I was gone for 2 Ĺ months but my store was making money. So everything was good at home. Keeping the girl happy, bills are paid, so itís the best of both worlds.
The Outcast: Thereís a festival going on right now near the town where I currently live called Cave Stock. There are a lot of vendors there that have glass that is locally blown in Carbondale.
Kelly: Thereís a lot of money in that. In my town itís good, you know? I grew up there, itís a small beach town right on the west coast, so everybody is really laid back and everyone knows me, so they all know to come and see me (laughter).
The Outcast: Well, on to more serious topics. The thing that separates my magazine from other magazines is that I tend to ask more personal questions regarding your life and such, is that okay with you?
Kelly: Iíve never been guilty of being short on words.
The Outcast: Okay, cool. He and I (Suicidal Brutalizer) were talking about the show and he brought up a point to me which brought up one of my questions. Are you an atheist? At the show you looked up and pointed up and said to the crowd; "I know Roger is here with us now." Do you believe that there is a spirit world, or....
Kelly: That will show you just how influential the pounding of religion is, on even me. Why did I do like that (pointing up/looking up)? Why am I doing that? Because people are just born, taught, and crammed down our throats so much so that even someone who rebels in every way still goes like that (looks up). I donít know what Iím pointing at. To me, Iím talking about Roger but why am I pointing up, you know? Is it the influence that even crept into me, you know? I think about that because I do that all the time. I think it is more about me wanting to communicate. Iím not going to point at the door over there because some people might not get it, you know? I think I just do it to make sure everybody understands.
The Outcast: So you are an atheist?
Kelly: No, no, no, I donít, like I said, I donít believe in God as it is written in the Bible. I believe truly that God is love (very true - Mike) and love is inside me. If I want to run out in the street in front of a car and take my life, thatís pretty fucking god like to me. Thatís me deciding, making a decision, and if that is already outlined for me, you know, in my path I believe thereís a path that everybody...... It would take us a long time to get into it, but my true belief of life is that everybody is inside of a shell in this particular plain which seems like eternity to us. Years seem like a long time, but itís just a fucking speck on civilization in general, on this earth and in this world. Weíre such a pompous sort of creature, itís pretty weird. I feel like an old soul. I feel like Iíve been here a lot of times. The reason why a lot of really, really talented people are taken away quickly because they have other journeys to get onto. So people need to be here for a long time to learn. I believe that religion is based around fear. If you were able to remove every aspect of fear in your life, then everything you do will be based on fear. You dress a certain way because you fear........ You put clothes on because you fear youíll feel youíll be embarrassed. As a specie we have all grown to have this enormous fear of everything we do. I read this book called "Emmanuelís Book." Itís an interview with a lady named Pat Rodegast who channels a spirit named Emmanuel. These psychologists gathered and asked all of these questions to Emmanuel who speaks through this woman, and you know, normally that would seem hokey and stupid, but itís unfucking believable. The answers are so non-human and so perfect in talking. Somebody asked what it was like to die and he said it was like taking off a tight shoe, or leaving a smoky room. Death is.... The idea of death is what scares the shit out of everybody, but in the process of fearing death, youíre missing out on life. Like this whole day that we just had right now..... People should live more in the moment. Putting all of your problems and all of your shit into this religion that gives you the answers that you want just doesnít work out for me. Everybody...... Your Protestantís and all these different branches of religion. "Oh this works out for me, I like this, and I like that. I donít like this policy, I donít like that. I like that one! Iíll take that one, thatís what we are. Weíre Catholic. Weíre Mormons." Whatever! All of these people have to put this flag in their dirt and say; "Iím on this side of the fence." Iíve always been the guy that stood on my side of the fence by my self. And Iím cool with that. But when you think about it, when someone has an opinion about something, the more people that agree with him, the better they feel about it. Nobody wants to stand on the island by themselves and say; "I donít believe in God." I donít believe in the Tooth Fairy and I donít believe in God. Come on man, youíve got to be more accountable as a person. You canít just say I put my faith in the lord Jesus Christ and heís going to help me, when in fact you are deciding your shit. When you get up everyday and during the day you say certain things and do certain things and act a certain way and thatís your reaction. Thatís your life. You can affect it every single day on how you are. Why does anybody need any more god than that? I donít understand why people canít just say Iím going to do what I have to do. Iím going to get on my path, do what I got to do, and move on to another realm. People are put into shells, human souls who are reincarnated........... The song "An Reincarnationís Dream" is about that. Souls traveling through different shells and experiencing different things that everybody needs to spend a particular amount of time on each plain too learn whatever it is that particular soul needs to learn. Emmanuelís Book really explains to me more of the things, you know, that........ The answers are so fucking perfect for a lot of things. Could you imagine.... We know colors as colors; red, blue, yellow, etc. When they ask him, "What are the colors like?" He responds; "Well, I couldnít explain it to you." "Why not?" asking him again. "Because they are colors that you havenít seen." We canít even imagine that. He couldnít say what they are because we wouldnít know what it meant anyway. You know Iím going off on a lot of different rants because Iím trying to touch on some of the things that are in this book that are the closest thing that I have to a religion, you know? I like to be accountable for my shit and I do believe that there is a particular path that everybody has, and if you drop one pencil out of place, your whole life changes. Every move you make..... When a person gets in a car accident, if they would have left 5 seconds later, everything in their life would be different. Everything happens for a reason, I really believe that. It works for me man. People in small towns, small town preachers that preach the gospel of God, they are no harm to anybody. Itís the people who are mixing church and state and causing me to have to fall in line with that shit. That is why I have a problem with religion, all religions, and atheism to. Iím not trying to say; "Come on everybody to my side of the fence!" Because that is what atheists are doing. Donít tell me what to do, period. I donít need your fucking advice. I donít need to join your gang. I donít need to give you 10% of my money, or get on my knees and pray. Iím going to get my ass out of bed and Iím going to fix my shit. Iím not going to get on my knees and go; "Oh please God, help me get a better job." Iím going to get my ass out of bed and get a better job. Not God, you know?
The Outcast: He and I were talking politics tonight. Are you into politics at all?
Kelly: We were, like; "I Deny" where we talk about politicians. I yell at the television constantly, but I wouldnít say that I....... I hate politics. I think politics is criminal behavior; licensed criminal behavior. I never really paid taxes until I was 32 years old.
Suicidal Brutalizer: Thatís good to hear because federal income tax is unconstitutional.
Kelly: It is unconstitutional. Itís clearly spelled out. Nobody holds those people (U.S. government) responsible.
Suicidal Brutalizer: Federal income tax is fraud.
Kelly: And nobody can do anything about it. If people would revolt and say; "Hey, wait a minute! Enough of this fucking shit! Hang on a minute, were changing our mind and you fuckers who we elected are going to have to listen because weíre not going to take it!" Weíre going to get on TV, MTV, whatever, donít send the check. That would be the campaign; "Donít pay your taxes. What are they going to do? Put everybody in jail? No theyíre not! Youíre going to get in that little room with your little gabbles and your ties and youíre going to come up with a new fucking plan. One thatís fairer for us. And youíre going to stop spending our money, unless we say it is okay. If there is a big fucking amount of money to be spent going into Iraq, we vote on it." Thatís way too much responsibility for a small group of fucking men who have ulterior motives and that have conflict of interest like a mother fucker.
Suicidal Brutalizer: And the Federal Reserve Bank is the biggest crock of shit ever.
Kelly: And when we talk about people running for president, Hillary Clinton, theyíre all bragging about how much money theyíve raised 26-28 million dollars; fuck you man! Thereís people dying in this fucking country and these pompous assholes are running around with their fucking signs and gathering up all of this money just to do the same job that the last guy did, you know?
Suicidal Brutalizer: If Hillary Clinton gets into office that means that for the past 32 years there has been either a Bush or a Clinton in the white house.
Kelly: Not quite 32, is it?
Suicidal Brutalizer: That will be 32 for either a Bush.....
Kelly: Itís in the 20ís isnít it, because Bush Sr. was the.....
Suicidal Brutalizer: ........Vice President after Reagan.
Kelly: And that was 86, was it?
Suicidal Brutalizer: He was our vice president for 8 years. A lot of people think that he was actually pulling his strings because he was in the CIA until the 60ís. A lot of people think he was involved with Kennedyís assassination also. Itís great to think that 34 of the 42 presidents that weíve had have all been related. Kerry and Bush were 12th cousins, Bush and Gore are Ĺ cousins, Clinton and Dole were cousins, the Bushís are related to the royal family in England, all of these people go back to the Charlenagne Dynasty. Itís not like when you are a kid they tell you; "Youíre going to be president." The Federal Reserve Bank is fucked up to because itís a private institution. Itís like a private organization thatís about as federal as the federal express (laughterís from all of us).
Kelly: Thereís a lot of theories. The government in general was a good idea in the beginning, but it has gotten way out of fucking hand. I didnít get too pissed about the taxes because I was a musician just roaming around, but man, let me tell you for the last couple of years Iíve been fucking pissed! At the end of the year, Iím like; "If I make $100,000.00 I have to give you $30,000.00 of it? Without you helping me at all"
Suicidal Brutalizer: For doing nothing! But I know, it really has gotten out of hand.
Kelly: Thatís the thing, if one guy steps up and tries; "Poof", he may disappear.
Suicidal Brutalizer: So the two people; Kennedy and Lincoln, were both going after the Federal Reserve Bank and they got assassinated.
Kelly: No politics are going to get anything done, thereís going to have to be a revolt. When we get pissed about something, we get pissed.
The Outcast: Did you watch V for Vendetta?
The Outcast: Itís pretty good. It is based off of a comic, but the whole movie is about the people of London taking over their government that has failed them. Once they see V stand up to all of the governments officials, he influences the city to do the same. Itís a really cool flick.
Suicidal Brutalizer: I heard about that.
Kelly: But like sales tax and all of that shit......
Suicidal Brutalizer: They just blow it.
Kelly: My stores, you know? I pay like a $1,000.00 per store just for them in sales tax. Theyíre getting a cut from everything, you know?
Suicidal Brutalizer: Property tax and all of that other bullshit.
Kelly: If I try and buy......... The Department of Transportation is the biggest fucking criminal organization that nobody knows about. Nobody ever thinks about the 10 guys that are standing there around some other guy in a hole, making up projects..... Road work always takes way longer, those guys are never going to get it done before dead-line because they donít get a bigger budget the following year and they donít get raises. Why canít people realize they are totally ripping people off left and right? Itís our money! The whole thing that happened in New Orleans with Katrina, if that was any indication of our government taking care of you, then everyone better fear for their fucking life, you know? My recommendation is to get lots of guns, lots of ammunition. They would love nothing more than to take guns away from everybody. That would be the final knife in our backs.
Suicidal Brutalizer: It worked for Stalin and it worked for Hitler.
Kelly: If they can de-weapon everyone then when shit hits the fan.
Suicidal Brutalizer: Well people didnít think it was going to happen in Nazi Germany, but then Hitler burned down everyoneís rights they had.
The Outcast: Before we get into some other serious topics, what are you listening to these days? Do you listen to metal at all?
Kelly: I dig into many realms of music. I enjoy hip-hop, you know? Some of it is really heavy in a weird way, you know?
Suicidal Brutalizer: Have you heard Immortal Technique?
Suicidal Brutalizer: Heís cool, heís an underground rapper.
Kelly: Thereís some good shit just from the poetry stand point.
The Outcast: Have you guys heard Necro?
Suicidal Brutalizer: Did you ever hear the record he re-made?
The Outcast: Not sure.
Kelly: I really like Mars Volta, they have a lot of quality. Itís one of the best new bands.
The Outcast: I was telling the guys that interviewed you from the Metal Domain how much I really enjoyed techno. Some of that stuff is just as brutal, intense, and as heavy as metal in my opinion.
Kelly: There was about a year where I found some shit that was really good. Thereís some dark shit.
The Outcast: I like Infected Mushroom a lot and have been listening to them quite a bit as of late. Have you ever heard of them?
Kelly: No, I stepped away from that (techno).
The Outcast: They have electric guitar incorporated with their stuff, which makes it sound really awesome. The last two albums were pretty good, but the first few others before those are much better in my opinion.
Kelly: In Europe theyíre definitely still feeling that. But there are so many different things that I love; I love Tool, I love.... Really, my favorite shit to listen to is old Black Sabbath, old Zeppelin. I always refer to that a couple of times a day. When Iím at my shop, Iím there 9 hours a day, so music is on all day. I can start the day with Slayer and end it with Jeff Buckley.
The Outcast: How old are you now?
The Outcast: Do you think youíll be doing music the rest of your life?
Kelly: No doubt. I have another band called Unheard (Never heard of that one, ha, ha, ha. Sorry, I had to. I bet you get that all of the time, eh? - Mike) I put together with a friend of mine; he used to be in a band called Burial.
Suicidal Brutalizer: Not Burial from N.Y., is it?
Kelly: No. I think there were two Burials.
Suicidal Brutalizer: I do remember there were two Burials, there was an older Burial and a newer Burial.
Kelly: The older Burial almost got signed and broke up right before they were going to get a deal, Road-Runner was interested. They were good. That singer and me got together and he sounds like a young Ozzy. I had just written all of these songs, I had just came out of Neurotica, wrote some songs, went into the studio, sang on them all and it just sounded like Neurotica, you know? So I said; "Fuck!" you know? Itís my voice; I canít get away from my voice. So he came in one day with his demo and I was like; "Wow, thatís great, sing on these songs." I gave him the music and one by one he brought back all of these amazing songs. I really loved it a lot and I think itís fucking great. So we went in and did a whole record, I have it all done. I just need to get it remixed and try to get it out by the end of the year. But itís like Stoner rock along the lines of Kyuss, Queens of the Stone Age, etc. I like that kind of shit.
The Outcast: So itís your music but itís him singing?
Kelly: Yeah. He wrote some really great lyrics. Heís got kind of a high voice.
The Outcast: Going back off of the subject of music, do you believe in aliens?
Kelly: Yeah, I do. I think it is ridiculous to think we are the only..... That weíre exclusive to the entire fucking solar system; please.
The Outcast: Why so much empty space?
Suicidal Brutalizer: Why would there be billions of stars?
Kelly: Thereís a lot of realms and realities that we know nothing about. We are such a fucking grain of sand.
Suicidal Brutalizer: Have you ever read anything by David Ike?
Suicidal Brutalizer: He has some stuff about aliens and stuff like that. Especially to do with the pyramids, that I thought was the most interesting thing. Pyramids, Stone Hedge, and all of those things we canít build today. We canít even get close to building those things today.
Kelly: People donít ever think about it and this is a silly theory, but it wouldnít be entirely impossible; bugs. How do we know that bugs arenít completely other forms of life that report back to a different world? Imagine a bee, the things the bee would hear, the things the bee would be able to send back to another realm, another planet. We donít fucking know. We study the bee and we think we know what the bee is; "Itís a bee." This is what we say it is, when in fact the entire time, ants, bugs, just think how fucking amazing they are. Ants; weíre very lucky ants arenít bigger than us because they would be ruling the planet. They are fucking smart, disciplined.
Suicidal Brutalizer: They enslave other ants, they harvest......
Kelly: They are far superior and far more disciplined than weíll ever be. We think weíre great with computers and all of this shit, and we do some amazing shit, but in the real realm of whatís going on, and the earth...... And just like with the planets; "Hereís Pluto; this is where the solar system ends (sarcastically speaking)."
The Outcast: If you took technology away from everyone right now, from the generation below us; cell phones, computers, just anything that has came into existence in the past 15-20 years, people wouldnít know what to do. They would go nuts.
Kelly: It is amazing, um..... How old are you?
The Outcast: 32 (For one more month, unless this gets posted way later!!! Sept. 1st yo!!)
Kelly: So you know what the land before cable TV was.
The Outcast: Oh yeah. I remember when Atari first came out, Coleco Vision, Pong...
Kelly: Pong for fucks sakes. Weíve gone from Pong to the shit thatís going on now, I just think; "Wow, whatís 20 years from now going to be like?" And you know, you can sit and shoot the shit around all day long and have all these theories, but in the end, we do some cool shit. Itís all relative.
The Outcast: Iím a photographer and I just recently went digital (In Feb.). If you are used to film, like me, I can tell the difference in quality, but everything that you can do in the dark room, you can do faster on the computer, you know? But then I think back at say for example war photographers from Vietnam or from that time, you know, and think about how they would develop (at times) their film right there in their helmets, while in a battlefield! Thatís photography man!!
Suicidal Brutalizer: I actually miss old photos, like when I see old photos of me, from the 80ís, with family members.......
Kelly: Itís like recording with analog and digital, itís an entirely different thing.
The Outcast: Dude, I prefer the old school recordings/productions a lot more than the cleaner productions of today, I really do. Like say for example, I prefer the recording sound from King Diamond from "Them", all the way down to his recordings with Mercyful Fate.
Kelly: If I had my choice I would record analog and mix digital. I would fall in love with the pro-tools thing, I mean I have with Neurotica, weíve cleaned up a lot of shit. Thereís a lot of (inhales) in between that you just donít want to be there. You can hear a breath every time and sometimes itís just nice to be able to look and go (making a sound referring to deleting), and get that out of there. From a singerís stand point, if you do a lot of layered vocals, if I did 3 vocals and they were fuckiní spot on, and that chorus is dead on, then you got to do it again 2 more times in the song, itís hard to get it exactly like that, you know? Itís nice to be able to copy and paste that, you know? Iím torn between embracing the technology and keeping it real. At the end of the day, I sang it all, nobody sang it for me, so Iím just moving the process along a little bit, but it is cheating. Comparing it to when we used to make records when we had to cut the tape with a razor blade to make a splice.
The Outcast: Do you miss the old days, or do you prefer the new days? Are there pros and cons to both?
Kelly: Itís that saying; "I wish I knew then what I know now." Thatís always the case. This is the way it has to be, you know? I appreciate those fucking days. I think about them a lot. Itís not about fucking money; nothing is about money (Survival is - kind of. - Mike). Itís about the experiences money allows you to have. Itís nice to have money so you can go to Costa Rica and fucking float on your back and...... you know what I mean? To experience life, smoke great dope, see new places, travel, and see the world. The earth is beautiful man. If metal has done nothing else for us, it has allowed us to see the entire fucking planet, and on our own terms and on somebody elseís dime. I tell people just travel, experience, you gotta live! Donít sit around and plan for life. Some people are like; "Iím going to save my money for 10 years and then Iím going to do this."
The Outcast: You may not be here tomorrow.
Suicidal Brutalizer: Just recently I quit my job and went to Europe for like a month and a half. I went to 12 countries.
Kelly: Thatís what Iím talking about. When youíre laying in your death bed, when youíre thinking about your life, youíre not going to think about how many 20 dollar bills you had in your wallet, youíre going to be thinking about; "Wow man, that trip to Europe was... I lived the life. I had a good time." You got to do as much as you can while youíre here because your life could end straight up tomorrow. Think about those people at Virginia Tech., they were getting ready to fucking live and then "Pow", itís over. Youíve gotta live now!
The Outcast: Like my mom, Iíve been listening to metal since I was 13 and she just thought it was a faze.
Suicidal Brutalizer: My mom did to!!
The Outcast: Iím 32 and I drove 6 hours (Powerfest) to catch 2 bands I really like and drove 9 to Knoxville, TN. to do the same. I flew out to California for a night, just one night, to catch my favorite Dj perform on Halloween weekend.
Kelly: Thatís fucking awesome. And you cherish those moments, right?
The Outcast: Oh yeah!!
Kelly: Theyíre more than just a mundane fucking; "Get up, go to work, go back...."
The Outcast: Yeah, and people think Iím nuts, but I think theyíre nuts for staying in one spot and not doing a thing!
Kelly: Do you know that only 11% of Americans hold a passport?
Suicidal Brutalizer: Thatís crazy.
Kelly: Isnít that fucking nuts!? Theyíre going to live their whole life and never go see the other side of the water.
Suicidal Brutalizer: Theyíre not going to go anywhere and theyíll just keep putting it off.
Kelly: Yeup, and then itís over and your life is done. I then your like; "Damn, I should have done all of those things." Iím all about fucking; "Letís dot it!" These shows that weíre doing arenít about money. I mean we made a little bit of money, mainly on merchandise, but thatís it. Most of our costs are to fly in, hotel, do what we do, and rehearse. We do it for as little as we can.
The Outcast: He went on to tell me a story about getting screwed over (Atheist) but didnít want it printed, so...... We all came back in talking about Chuck and Death. Although I knew Chuck and Kelly had some "issues" back in the day, I had forgotten all about it until now.
Suicidal Brutalizer: .....he had an old interview with you that I read, it was before he died, but I remember.......
Kelly: We made up and got high together but then he went on and still went on to fucking talk shit. Chuck was a legend; the Godfather of death metal without a doubt. He was an innovator, I have nothing but respect for him, but as a person he struggled with a lot of paranoia. Donít try to fucking change my bedroom (referring to Atheist), this is my room! Death was...... To call your band Death at a time when he did was really ballsy. It was straight up; "We are not fucking commercial. Straight up fucking anti-everything; Death, that is what my band is called." That was balls man. He made some really great music, but when he heard us, we were managed by the same guy who was a good friend of his and he (Chuck) was a bit put off by what we were doing. I think he was smart enough to realize; "Hey, wait a minute.... I donít fucking like it." Heís telling everybody; "It sounds like a train station." He told Borivoj Kriegen who now does blabbermouth.net, heís a great writer..... I mean, Atheist wouldnít be here without that guy. Heís very good friends with Monte Conner, and they were, you know, a little group back then of underground dudes. We played a show with them back in the day at the Sunset Club and we got a good response man. We didnít have a great response because our shit was weird, but nobody got up and left. We were thinking; "Why are you saying.... Why..... Youíre Chuck from Death. Weíre just trying to get a fucking deal man. Why are you taking shots at us? Weíre unsigned. Weíre just doing what youíre trying to do, you know? Weíre just trying to be a band. You know how hard that is anyway." So we were really fucking pissed off about it. Iím not shy man, Iíll fucking run my mouth and Iíll back it up as well with my mouth. Iím not trying to be a bad person, but I donít care who the fuck you are, donít do that. I donít care if you are Chuck, I donít care who you are. Thatís un-cool. Once we got a deal and everything came out; years later, suddenly, he goes to Sean and Paul from Cynic and suddenly he wants to be technical. And people always say; "So you guys (Atheist) are influenced by Death in your technicality?" Iím like; "Your time line is all fucked up. You better do your homework man. We didnít take that shit from nobody (That is for sure!! No one sounds like Atheist! - Mike). We took it from Rush and from Frank Zappa and shit like that. But we also loved Slayer, Metallica and all that shit, and thatís how all that happened (Atheist). We didnít even know anything about Death. He didnít do anything technical. I didnít get my vocal style from me; I got my vocal style from Mille from Kreator. When it came time for me to be the singer in the band, I was never going to have that (growls) that super fucking cookie monster thing, and I didnít really want to. I wanted it to be more aggressive and more ripping like The Accused and shit like that. When I heard "Pleasure to Kill" I was like; "Yeah, thatís me!" I always rolled with that vocal style.
The Outcast: I would have never expected Kreator.
Kelly: Somebody told me tonight that his girl does the web-site for Kreator and there is a picture of him (Mille) with an Atheist shirt on.
Suicidal Brutalizer: Thatís awesome.
Kelly: I want to get that fucking picture because we definitely love that band. It just doesnít seem like it has been all these years because it seems like it was just a minute ago that we were back stage trying to meet Ventor but now all of the sudden weíre (Atheist) classic, you know what I mean? When we go to Europe now we feel like weíre the Bob Seigert of death metal (Laughter from all of us).
Suicidal Brutalizer: Do you think Atheist and Cynic probably influenced "Human" and "Individual Thought Patterns?"
Kelly: Chuck hired them because they heard the demos and heard they were phenomenal players. Sean Reinert is a ridiculous drummer. He went out and got him, and they made that record, and they (Sean and Co.) made Death. They fucking made Death a quality musicianship band, you know what I mean? He used to say; "Those guys donít even look metal, they listen to jazz, do you know what I mean? Theyíre not true metal." Thereís a lot of different things. There was a time Tony was on tour with Pestilence and he (Chuck) got all bugged out because Tony was seeing a girl who Chuck used to date and he got all pissed and kicked Pestilence off the tour. Mameli told him to go fuck himself for giving Tony a hard time. He didnít even know that Chuck had gone out with her before; it just turned out that way. Iím sure a lot of kids donít want to hear this shit probably, you know what I mean? They love Chuck and I understand why they love Chuck, but they have to understand why we had our problems. Iím a human being and I have never disrespected him. Iíve always given him his props, but in the technical time line, just for the record, we were not influenced by Death. The one thing we were influenced by Death probably and I think everybody was, was the fact that we were willing to call our band Atheist. Because it certainly wasnít as bad as Death, you know? Or Morbid Angel, or things like that. For that he really paved the way to create a particular genre in metal that was significantly different than Iron Maiden and Judas Priest and all of that and he deserved a lot of credit.
The Outcast: Do you mingle in other art forms other than music at all?
Kelly: Yeah, Iím a painter. If you go to my web site I have like probably 50 paintings up.
Suicidal Brutalizer: Whatís the web-site?
Kelly: kellyshaefer.com. Iím always doing painting, or writing, or just trying to be creative all the time.
The Outcast: Did I give you a card with the magazine address man? Thatís where Iíll have the pictures and interviews posted. You want to go ahead and close this up man? Iíve taken up a lot of your time (22 pages with no pictures!!).
Kelly: Yeah man, Iíll go upstairs and check back up with the guys.
The Outcast: Yeah, itís going on 3am and you have to leave in 6 hours man.
Although we ended up talking about another 5 minutes, I went ahead and ended it there. It was a fun night indeed, and a weekend to remember! Best of luck goes out to Kelly and company in all of their musical journeys together!